Ghosts in Beaminster, Dorset
The phantoms of the land around Beaminster are a varied group, and the scenery is equally diverse. There are narrow, quiet lanes, wide open hillsides offering sweeping views and dense woodland rich in wildlife. The more challenging sections of this walk can be bypassed by those who prefer an easier outing, but this short cut also misses out the finest views and most impressive scenery. Beaminster itself is an engaging little town with a surprisingly diverse range of shops to visit. There are pubs and restaurants in plenty. All in all, Beaminster is a lively little place that makes a good centre for the surrounding countryside and a welcoming place to halt awhile.
1) Park in Beaminster, if possible in the Market Square but if this small area is full use the nearby car park. Leave the Market Square by way of Church Street. At the bottom of Church Street is the parish Church of St Mary’s with its recently restored 15th century tower.
It was just at this church that a murder most foul was unmasked on 27 June 1728. The victim was a schoolboy named John Daniel. He had died around six weeks before from what appeared to have been a fit. Then his ghost was seen by a group of his fellow shoolboys sitting beside a phantom coffin in the nave of the church. When the boys approached him, the ghost looked up mournfully as if to say something, but then vanished. The boys included one who had moved to the village just a week earlier and had never met the deceased John Daniel, but he could give an accurate description of the dead boy merely by seeing the ghost.
Colonel Broadrepp, the local Justice of the Peace, heard about the sighting and questioned the boys closely. Believing that the appearance of the ghost signified something, but not sure what, Broadrepp ordered the corpse to be exhumed. Although the body had begun to decompose, there was enough evidence of foul play to persuade Broadrepp to investigate. He found that the coroner had been drunk at the hearing and had ignored a witness who claimed that young Daniel had told her he was in fear of his life. Suspicion centred on Daniel’s stepmother Elizabeth Daniel, but there was no real evidence that she had killed the boy. Local opinion was firmly against her, however, and she had to leave Beaminster. In contrast, the ghost of poor young John has never left Beaminster. He is seen from time to time sitting quietly in the church, perhaps forever waiting for justice to be done.
From "Ghosthunter Walks in dorset" by Rupert Matthews
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